Roundabouts on the surface, are designed to promote a steady flow of traffic but safety is also at the forefront of the discussion when a new one is built.
They're a staple in Billings and because of that, so is the construction that precedes them. The city is getting two new ones: one at the intersection of King and 56th and another at the intersection of Central and 56th.
The one on Central is complete and open to drivers. The one on King is set to be completed on November 15. Both have been implemented to aid with the flow of traffic as well as increase safety for drivers in the area.
"This movement for roundabouts on the West End, predominately are for safety reasons. This is for safety improvement project reasons and I think it nods towards capacity. There’s going to be more and more development in this area and it's going to continue westward. So, predominately for safety but more than anything I think it's both for capacity and safety," said Dean DeCarlo, Engineering Project Manager for MDT.
There were 17 crashes from 2006 - 2012 on King and 56th, and 27 from 2002-2013 on Central and 56th. With that data, a determination was made to add these roundabouts and construction was able to get underway this year. Both of them will be single lane roundabouts and the projects combined cost a little over five million to complete.
Insuring safety for the workers is key to the project finishing quickly and dealing with the public is an everyday struggle for the crews working on them.
"We really need the public's help to be respectful of the traffic control, and to respect the barricades that are in place. We have workers that are working out in the roadway, so, when people are traveling through an active job site it puts all of the contractor’s team, as well as the states team at significant risk of harm and the drivers themselves too," said Lisa Olmsted, Public Involvement Manager for DOWL.
During construction there have been a few close calls for workers when motorists have ignored road closures.
"A few of our people had to sort of dodge bullets to get out of the way of the traffic. It seemed that the drivers didn’t care that they were in a closure and if I remember right, they were traveling at speeds that they shouldn’t have been, on top of it all," added DeCarlo.
Despite the risks, it’s an addition that Olmsted and DeCarlo are confident the public will be happy with and one they’re proud of.
"Overall the public has been very supportive of these projects. A lot of people are really glad to have them and they appreciate the safety aspects that the roundabouts will offer to both of these heavily trafficked intersections," added Olmsted.
The hope is that both of these areas will see a drop in severe traffic incidents as a result.
"The goal is to reduce accidents to zero. That probably won't happen unfortunately, because you’re always going to have a fender bender here and there. But if we can literally eliminate all serious accidents, that would be a great thing to be able to achieve," said DeCarlo.